How a Trash Compactor Works

A trash compactor has a drive gear, chain and roller bearings, and a motor inside it. Like any other motorized household appliance, it uses electricity, so for it to work, the unit is first plugged in to an electric receptacle and turned on. Before you buy a trash compactor, you might wish to check reviews of commercially available trash compactor models to see which ones are considered the best by other users, but most models work pretty much the same way and only differ in how little sound they make while they're working. Trash compactors come with a top-limit switch to show how much trash you can put in at any one time, and if the limit has been reached and exceeded, the motor will automatically stop running. This is basically what your trash compactor unit does:

  1. When the trash compactor has been turned on, the motor will move the ram or press into the trash receptacle.
  2. The press pushes down on the trash and compresses it down to size.
  3. The press comes up again after the trash has been compressed.

The trash compactor has commercially available bags made especially for its use, which are made of either paper or plastic. Both have been reinforced with linings or multiple plies for added protection against leaks and to prevent them from ripping under the weight of the compressed items. These compactor bags cost marginally more than ordinary trash bags do, but it amounts to just about the same because compactor bags don't need to be changed as often as trash bags. This also means saving the environment.

Concerning the placement and installation of your unit, a kitchen compactor or plate compactor unit is usually installed upon delivery to your home. The trash compactor is usually set up near the kitchen sink, near where the dishwasher is. You should think about the dimensions of the machine and the layout of your kitchen first before you have one installed, especially if you're using a drawer dishwasher model. These are sturdy, especially when manufactured by Maytag or Miele Dishwashers, but might take up the space you want for your trash compactor. A built-in kitchen compactor usually means that lower cabinets or drawers have to be removed to make space for the compactor. There needs to be at least six inches of free space on the side for the easy replacement of bags, and at least two feet in front to be able to slide the drawer open completely.

Trash compactors don't easily break, but they do need yearly maintenance, and you have to check if there is any debris clogging your trash compactor from time to time. It's also a good idea not to abuse your trash compactor unit by putting aerosol cans and other flammable products inside. In case it does break down, the manufacturer can do repairs on your unit. Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer as well, or from the store you bought it from. You can also check at your local appliance parts or plumbing supplies store as these places might also carry the parts you need to replace.


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